Good morning Pam and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?
Hi Jo and thank you for inviting me along for a chat. I am an Irish Indie author of historical fiction. I’m married with three children and work part-time, so my spare time is very precious. As a result, independent publishing has been wonderful as it suits my hectic life down to a tee. My debut novel, The Bowes Inheritance, was published in 2015. Early on, I joined the Historical Novel Society whose members, I have to say, are some of the most supportive people I have had the pleasure to meet. One of my first reviews was from the HNS and to my astonishment my book was made Editor’s Choice and longlisted for the HNS Indie Award 2016. Recently, the book has been shortlisted for The Carousel Aware Prize 2016 in the novel category. The award will be announced on 25th October. (I have everything crossed!)
When did you first decide you wanted to write and how did you begin that journey?
There were a lot of influences in my childhood and the earliest one that I can remember was television. Historical dramas in particular caught my attention, even though at that young age I didn’t really understand the stories. Ah but the costumes, the architecture and the way people behaved – something clicked. My father was a great reader and encouraged me to be as well; as a child and a teen I devoured books and I mean devoured. Then Dad bought me the complete works of Jane Austen and a foundation was laid. For those familiar with the 19th century world, I think I actually became a bluestocking! I munched my way through classics, dined on crime and mystery (Dorothy L Sayers my absolute favourite – what a fantastically twisty mind that woman had), and supped at the feet of Georgette Heyer’s heroes and heroines.
The urge to write has always been strong. As a teen I wrote a lot of angst-ridden poetry that, thankfully, will never see the light of day; dabbled in some newsletter journalism and then life kind of took over for a while. It was only when my third child was born, and I took a career break, that the notion of writing a novel popped into my head. It was a challenge – could I finish one? I did and enjoyed it so much that I continued to write. But for myself. Three years ago I started a new story. It had a beginning, a middle and an end (always a good thing), but there was no flesh to its bones. I knew I wanted it to have an Irish flavour, but with a new angle perhaps. I have always been fascinated by the complex relationship between the Irish Ascendency and their British counterparts and that, and a wrangle over land, seemed a good place to start. It was only as I started to research, that the story took on a life of its own. Sub-plots popped up, often influenced by real events that I read about from old newspapers, books and on-line blogs. What started out primarily as a love story became tangled up in Irish history, Fenians and the Lake District! The Bowes Inheritance was born.
Who are your favourite authors and have any of them inspired your writing in any way?
Without a doubt, Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. Why? Because their skill in creating characters, and the worlds they live in, is unsurpassed. Crime writers, such as PD James, Ruth Rendell and Dorothy L. Sayers have also had an impact in that I always write multi-layered stories, with an element of crime or mystery.
How much research goes into your books?
I absolutely love research so it does take up quite a lot of time but I feel it is worth it. I don’t write about actual characters from history but I do write about authentic worlds. You can only do that by absorbing vast quantities of information on life in that period. I write predominantly late Victorian and pre WW1 so luckily there is a rich source of reference material such as photos, books, (some fantastic blogs such as Mimi Matthews’) and even film that still exists. Even my own family research has influenced some of my writing.
If you didn’t write historical novels would there be any other genre that would interest you?
I hope someday to attempt a contemporary novel and I also fancy doing something very self-indulgent and rather gothic!
Are you able to tell us a little about what you are working on at the moment?
I am working on two novels – as if life wasn’t busy enough.
Kashmir Velvet is a mystery set in Yorkshire in the 1880s. It is about a young woman who is falsely accused of stealing a family heirloom. While she is fighting to clear her name, her father’s less than salubrious past catches up with her too. I can’t really say any more other than it involves some missing Kashmir sapphires!
The other book, The Button Girls, is based very loosely on my grandmother who lived through some very turbulent moments of Irish history – literally outside her front door (the 1913 Lock-out that brought Dublin to its knees and the Easter Rising of 1916). This book is predominantly a romance set against the mayhem of the time.
And lastly, if you could invite five celebrities to dinner, who would they be and why?
Firstly, it would be best if I didn’t cook – you would be looking at 5 ill or possibly dead celebs! I’m going to cheat a bit and include some deceased ones anyway. My first guest would be Cary Grant – not really sure why I would have to explain that one but he was the essence of sophistication. My next would be Alfred Hitchcock because I love his films and would be intrigued to know how his mind worked. Next would be Helen Mirren and Judi Dench – both fantastic actresses with long careers but mostly because I think they would have very interesting stories to tell. Lastly, it would be toss-up between Dara O’Briain or Lee Mack – either would be very entertaining.
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MORE ABOUT THE BOWES INHERITANCE
Autumn 1882: Louisa Campbell, living in genteel poverty in Dublin, is surprised to learn she is the new owner of the Bowes Estate. When she arrives in England, she discovers her nearest neighbour, Nicholas Maxwell, wishes to continue a vicious feud over her land and the uncle she inherited from was not what he seemed. When a Fenian bombing campaign comes close to home, Louisa finds herself a prime suspect and must do all she can to protect herself and her younger sister. But who is really orchestrating the Fenians’ activities? Will Louisa have the courage to solve the mysteries that Bowes Farm holds? And most importantly of all, will she ever be able to trust and love the man who is surely her sworn enemy?